Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Race Report: Santa Rosa Half Marathon

santa rosa half marathonLocation: Santa Rosa, CA

Date: End of August (Aug 26, 2012 this year)

Price:

* Until Dec 31: Half/$75, Full/$85
* Jan - March: Half/$80, Full/$90
* Apr - June: Half/$90, Full/$100
* Jul - Aug: Half/$105, Full/$120

There's also a 5K - $30 for adults & $15 for kids. A little googling also turned up several discount codes, so you can probably save $10-$20 off of the current price as well.

Deadlines/sellout factor: The half & full both sold out a month or so (I think?) before the race. There were still 5K spots as of race morning.

Field Size: 357 in the full, 625 in the half, 395 in the 5K

The Expo:

The expo was in a tiny side room at Hotel Flamingo on 4th Street. It was SUPER, super small with just a handful of booths (packet & shirt pickup, SRM merch, sunglasses, water bottles, silver jewelry, Modesto Marathon, CPR instruction). I don't mind a small expo, but as small as this race is, it's still really too big for that room. You basically had to follow a single narrow loop, and people were packed in so tightly that it was extremely difficult to make your way through. I usually like to stop & check out the booths, but it was so crowded that doing so was more trouble than it was worth. The more people stopped, the harder it was to move. I would've been in and out in 5 minutes if it hadn't been for the crowd; as it was it took me twice that long to maneuver my way out once I had my stuff.

The Course:

The half marathon course is an out-and-back mostly along the Santa Rosa Greenway between Santa Rosa Ave & Willowside Rd, with the marathon making two loops. Most of the way is paved, though there were several long stretches of gravel, and it's astoundingly flat with the exception of a few dips to go under bridges. Technically it's very, very slightly downhill (like 0.002%) on the way out & equivalently uphill on the way back, but it's really not detectable at all.

One of the pre-race emails described the trail as fully shaded, which it isn't. It didn't matter much since it was low fifties & overcast (not to mention that the start time was 7 am), but still. Definitely only partially shaded part of the time. There were a few sharp turns due to the little loops you have to make to go under bridges, but that's really it. Because it's an out-and-back trail, there were very few actual turns.

My only real quibble with the course was the narrowness of it in the first mile or two. There were just too many people running relatively fast in too tight a space and I felt very, very unsafe. I literally had about a square foot of space and spent mile one getting kicked in the shins by the person in front of me, the backs of my shoes stepped on by the person behind me, & elbowed every which direction by the folks to my side (particularly those ill-advisedly trying to pass under these conditions). At one point I actually was elbowed right off the trail by a girl (who laughed as she called "Sorry!" back over her shoulder). The trail never got much wider, but it was a huge relief when the field opened up & thinned out some around mile 2ish.

It's worth noting that there is really nothing--nothing--to see but trees, concrete, & other runners. I kept looking forward to aid stations (every 1.5 miles or so) just for a break in the monotony. If you like interesting scenery/cheering stations/rock bands/etc. in your races or if you struggle with scenery that never, ever changes, this one may not be for you.

Logistics:

Other than the tiny space, packet pickup was quick & efficient. Instead of a plastic goody bag, we got black drawstring reusable ones, which seems to be a thing now, & I appreciate the effort to avoid the waste generated from plastic ones that often just get thrown away. However, I have learned better than to use the race freebie bag for your bag check. My bright, neon green one (thanks, Oakland Half!) stuck out among the mountains of black, and I was on my way in ten seconds with the hearty thanks of the volunteer who handed it to me while the rest of them were still digging around in the endless sea of black, trying to match bib numbers to tiny slips of blue paper.

The race organizers sent out an email with parking options a few weeks before the race, which was awesome. It turns out that there are several free options just a short walk from the course. I arrived super early (because I am paranoid & neurotic on race morning) & basically had my pick of spots in the 1st Street garage, all of five minutes' walk to the start. It was so easy & painless, in fact, that I ended up with over an hour & a half to kill. Ah, well. Better that than the alternative.

Port-a-potties were plentiful & easy to spot, & the lines never got very long, which is, of course, always appreciated.

The Race:

This ended up playing out more or less just as I thought it would. I figured I'd run it as if were an HM pace run & try to keep the pace up for as long as I could. If I was having an absolutely amazing day, I thought there might be a chance I could break 1:40 again (especially since the course & weather were on my side, unlike the first time I did it). I could tell by mile six or seven, though, that it just wasn't going to happen. I was keeping up the pace, but it was really tough. At that point I decided I'd run hard & try my best to stay at more or less HM (goal) pace for ten miles, and if I still wasn't feeling great, that would be good enough.

Definitely the most human I have ever looked at the end of a race. Also, both feet in the air FTW! :D
And oh my, was it hard. Harder than any of the pace runs I've done this year. I just kept counting down miles, determined to make it to ten. Somewhere around 8.5, I started to feel a little more optimistic & had a brief moment where I thought, "Hey! Maybe I can still do this!" Or, if not a sub-1:40, then at least a second-best time. But then I hit 9.6ish and right on cue my body began sending me every signal in the book that HELL NO, BITCH, we've already given you ten very solid miles that you DID NOT earn this month by ANY STRETCH, so CHILL THE EFF OUT. Intense nausea, chest pain, muscles threatening to cramp, a touch of asthma -- it was all in the mix. I think I probably could've kept going and stayed safe if I'd dialed it back to maybe an 8:15-20ish pace, but I didn't have enough invested in this race to risk it & just made a decision at that point to do the safe thing & jog the last 5K easy.

This was the first time I've done that in a race when I haven't been injured, and mentally it was hard to watch wave after wave of runners pass me. I stopped for a little while at each of the remaining aid stations to stretch, have multiple cups of water, chat with the volunteers, help them out (okay, that's an exaggeration), etc., then jogged on. Then, of course, we reached the final half mile or so, and advisable or not, I just couldn't resist giving it a bit of extra gas.

    Garmin: 13.19 miles / 1:45:01 / 7:57 pace
    Official: 13.1 miles / 1:44:52 / 8:00 pace

    Overall: 83/625
    Women: 17/388
    A/G: 7/73

So yeah. No big surprise; it's pretty much exactly what I expected to happen, given that I've run all of 70 miles this month. I don't particularly like the idea of paying for a race & then not being able to run it the way I know I'm capable of and it's certainly not what I planned to have happen when I registered, but that's life sometimes. The plus side is that I knew going in that I probably wouldn't be fit enough to race the whole thing, and realistic expectations can go a long way towards keeping you in that "It is what it is; I'll get 'em next time" mentality rather than careening into that dark, good-for-nothing "OMG I'm such a failure!" place. The way I look at it, I got in a long(ish) run and an extended pace run all in one go, which is more than I've managed at any other point this month.

And really. How down on yourself can you get if you stop twice to hang out & chat with volunteers and still finish in the top 10% of your age group? I keep reminding myself of that. :)

So. Healdsburg Half (this one, not this one - yes, there are two half marathons in Healdsburg in October) on 10/14. Who's got two thumbs & is super pumped to train (for realz, y'all) the HELL out of the next seven weeks? THIS GIRL!!

(Also, a quick rant. Do I have a freaking sign on my back that says "I am bored, please talk to me?" I swear, at least once a mile some old dude would try to start a conversation with me. I'm not trying to be rude, but I'M KIND OF BUSY HERE. It's bad enough that I have to put up with all of your wheezing and moaning and grunting and foot slapping and sports bean rattling and arm flailing and snot rocketing, but I put up with it because it's part of the bargain when you agree to run a race with other people. Being your chat buddy is more than I can deal with, physically and mentally. Unless we are already friends or I look like I need medical attention, leave me the eff alone. End rant.)


I'm totally considering one of those vests like they make for service dogs for my next race. Thankfully, no one has ever tried to pet me during a race.

Swag:

Logo tech shirt & finisher medal, natch:


This medal narrowly beats out the Oakland Half one for the title of Largest Medal Owned by Me.


Spinner medals are rad!

Plus the black drawstring bag I mentioned earlier, pancake breakfast, wine tasting, & concert after the race. (I didn't stay so I can't tell you much more about those.) There was also a $25 all-you-can-eat pasta dinner at the Hotel Flamingo on Saturday night, though since it wasn't free I guess it doesn't really count as swag. (I did not partake so I can't tell you how good it was.)

As for the awards, the website has this to say:

"The winning overall open (below 40) female and male runners and overall female and male master division (40+) runners will each receive:

Each men and women age category (21 and older) will receive another nice prize, to be determined."

Nope, I haven't left anything out. That's what it says. Part of me is very curious to know what indeed the winners received, and what these other "nice prizes" were too.

Suggestions:

1) A bigger expo space. More vendors would be nice, but the race is smallish & relatively new, so it's understandable that the expo is on the small side. However, the space was so cramped that people could barely move. (Only later did it occur to me how this sort of foreshadowed the first mile or so of the race.)

2) More folks working the bag check. They were making a valiant effort, but the line still got LOOOONG around 6:30-6:40ish. Adding a couple more people & maybe a second table would probably go a long way towards alleviating that.

3) I know there's not much that can be done about the narrowness of the course early in the race because it's basically defined by how wide the trail is. However, I'm wondering if it's possible to open more lanes on the roads for the first quarter mile or so to allow more runners to get out in front before they get locked into a thick crowd they can't get out of. The site does say that "We will most likely use only half the road for all the runners (narrower chute for safety reasons about a 1/4 mile into the race)," but to me, this situation felt anything but safe. All it would've taken was one or two runners to go down (which was totally possible given the close proximity of flying legs) & there would've been a massive pile-up & probably some trampling action.

Overall Assessment:

On the small side, reasonably priced (especially if you find the discount codes), well-run & logistically organized, nice swag, great volunteers, and a flat, straight course = not a bad deal. Personally the gravel is a deal-breaker for me, so the odds that I'll run it again are slim. BUT, I would totally recommend it to someone who doesn't mind gravel (and doesn't need a lot of sensory stimulation in a race). I'd just advise them to work out ahead of time how they plan to deal with the inevitable crunch in the first 1-1.5 miles.

Thanks for the good time, Santa Rosa! :)

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Part Where I Wish I Was an Exercise Physiologist

I've been pulled in so many different directions since my last half that poor Santa Rosa has become sort of the redheaded stepchild of this year's races. I even hesitate to refer to the running that has happened as "training."

So, as with Summer Breeze 10K, my expectations are pretty low. Where I once had aspirations of going sub-1:40 again & getting a PR, I think I will have to be pleased with myself if I manage sub 1:45. That's not to say I think the original goal is impossible (I mean, hey, look at PrideRun & Summer Breeze); just that the odds are not great.

It's times like these that I lament my lack of deeper knowledge about how conditioning and de-conditioning really work. I mean duh, running more generally makes you faster and running way less will eventually make you slower. But how quickly? And how much less counts as "less"? How long is the lag between a drop off in workouts and the inevitable resultant drop off in performance? How much can I back off and still maintain my current level of fitness, even if I'm not getting faster?

Questions, questions, questions.

I ran 10 miles last Thursday with 7 at HM pace, and though they weren't as effortless as the ones I'd run a couple of weeks before (ie, pre-vacation), they were reasonably comfortable at the pace I'd like to be running. On the other hand, I haven't run more than 10 miles at once since July, and my runs this week have been somewhat dubious. The six on Tuesday (2 wu + 6 rounds of 400m at 10K pace / 400m easy + 1 cd) left my calf muscles super achey & on the verge of cramping, and the six on Thursday (2 wu + 3 @ HM pace + 1 cd) felt disturbingly tough. Seriously -- during the first HM mile when I was fighting for a 7:45 pace, I'd half decided not to run at all. The next two miles were easier and faster, though, so ultimately I got over it.

It hit me later on that people don't go from PR 10Ks and amazing tempo runs to walruses with emphysema in the space of three weeks, even if they cut way back on training. Lose the edge a bit? Sure. But realistically, I should still be pretty fit.

And that holds up. Once I got warmed up into the faster paces, I was cardiovascularly fine on those runs, and didn't feel afterward as if I'd worked all that hard. I think the real issue is actually the toughness of some of my smaller muscle / connective tissue groups, particularly those between my knees and feet. That's were I've been sore, and I know from experience that any kind of weakness there (and I think I do tend to be weak there in general) tends to work its way up the kinetic chain and cause me to run less efficiently. Which makes it feel harder, even if I haven't lost much fitness cardiovascular-wise.

So I don't really know what will happen Sunday. I very well may find myself running 1:4x, and if that's the best I can do, that's fine. There will be other halfs. However, I can tell you that I am not planning to pre-emptively set myself up for a 1:4x. I'm planning to run this race as if I have a legitimate shot at sub-1:40 for as long as I can.

If I were a bookie, I'd give myself good odds of staying in the 7:35-7:40 range for the first 10 miles. The truth of this race, I think, will be in the last 5K. I doubt I'm in good enough shape to pull a Windsor Green & floor it for 3 miles at that point; the question is probably whether I'm strong enough to hold a 7:40ish pace all the way through or not.

My guess is no. But whatever. If nothing else, it'll give me a sense of how much work I have to do before Healdsburg Half in October. And YAY for being done with the traveling & driving & getting settled in my new office! It's looking like I might even have the time to actually train for it. :)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Mrrrphhhmmmm....

I think that about sums up the amount of extra time / energy I have had as of late. I am not going to write one of those "woe is me, I'm such a bad blogger" posts begging for your forgiveness, though, because it's my blog & I'll go AWOL when I feel like it (at least until there is some monetary compensation involved). But let me just tell you, I am BEAT and SWAMPED, if for some ultimately great reasons.

Reason #1 - August has been an insane month up in here. We've been / will be out of town every weekend this month (weddings and races and camping, oh my!), plus the mini vacation we took the week of 8/6. These are all amazing and fabulous and wonderful things, but they do take up time & energy. I'll probably share a few highlights here & there when I can.

Reason #2 - I am still in the middle of transitioning into working full-time again. All the old contracts are wrapped up and I am now driving to one and only one location each day and staying there for a full eight hours, but what with all the rest of the August craziness, I haven't really had time to get myself fully settled & organized. I don't plan to keep driving every day, but for now that's how it is.

Reason #3 - When I haven't been out of town during the week, I am trying to make sure to get to karate every day that I can. Generally when I need an evening to rest / recharge / not be around other people, it's no big deal to skip a class, but with a black belt test looming, I feel a lot more guilty about this & have been trying to be there as much as possible. (Er, except tonight. I really needed a night off.)

My running during this period has been so sparse that it hardly seems worth mentioning. The abbreviated version:

July 31 - Aug 5: 23 miles.

Aug 6 - Aug 12: Vacation; no running. There was some reasonably strenuous hiking, though, so it's not like I was sitting on the couch eating bon bons all week. Surely that counts for something.

Aug 13 - Aug 19: 14 miles.

  • 4 easy.
  • 2 wu + 7 @ HM pace + 1 easy.

Which brings us to the present. I.e., the week of Santa Rosa Half. I may be able to break 30 this week (including the race) if I really work at it, but it seems like a bad idea to try to run a ton more than I have been & wear myself out.

Also, in my spare minutes, I've started & abandoned like 20 blog posts. I'll be like, "OOOH! That's a GREAT idea!" Then I'll proceed to write a paragraph and promptly fall asleep. Maybe one of these days some of them will see the light of day (if they're not hopelessly outdated by the time I can finish them, that is).

So that's that. I'm still alive, doing, y'know, some amount of running, and trying not to fall too terribly far into sleep debt. Hope your August has been great!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Race Report: 2012 Summer Breeze 10K

Summer Breeze 5K/10K/Half MarathonPhew! Thanks to vacation & post-vacation catch-up, this race report has been a long time coming. Since I know you've all been waiting for it on pins & needles, let's get to it!

Since I've run this race (basically) twice before, I'll refer you to those posts (Feb '12, Aug '11) for all the event details. The 10-second story is that Brazen is a great group that does fantastic small, high-value, low-key events & you should definitely check them out if you haven't.



    Official: 6.2 miles / 44:21 / 7:09 average pace
    Garmin: 6.25 miles / 44:20 / 7:05 average pace

    Overall: 14/534
    Women: 2/345
    A/G: 1/49

Initially, there was some amusing confusion with the women's 10K results. When they first went up, I was 14th overall, 2nd woman (seconds behind the 40-44 AG winner), & 1st AG. Then, after about 5 minutes, a volunteer came over with updated results which showed another woman in the 40-45 category winning the entire race with a time of 31:07. According to these new results, I was 15th overall, 3rd woman (pushing the former 40-44 AG winner into 2nd), & still 1st in 30-34. That was still the state of things when I left, though my money was on the woman with the 31:07 actually having run the 5K & somehow gotten accidentally moved into the 10K results for some reason, as I was pretty sure every woman who can run an Olympic A Standard 10K is in London right now. Sure enough, as of Saturday night, any & all phantom Olympians had been removed from the results.

In terms of getting better at running a certain distance, I think people progress more or less in the following way:

  • Step 1: Run to finish, get a sense for the distance, and a baseline time you can use to measure progress.
  • Step 2: Learn to run the distance at the right (reasonably hard) effort level & reasonably even splits.
  • Step 3: Learn to negative split running reasonably hard the whole time (ie, no cheating by running the first half super easy & then sprinting the last mile).
  • Step 4: Experiment with running a bit harder in the early miles & trying to negative split by a smaller margin.

I don't really know what comes after that because that's really as far as I've gotten at my best distances. (& with marathons, I've only acheived step 1!) For the most part this was just a fitness gauge for me going into Santa Rosa, but since the stakes were low I also wanted to experiment with going out a little faster than I have in the past & see what happened. I definitely wanted to run pretty hard and race but wasn't planning on going 110% all-out.

Since I have never done worse than 4th overall or 3rd in my age group in a Brazen race, I figured it was not overly presumptive of me to line up in the second row (ie, behind the front row of super-speedy looking dudes). What I find funny is that all three times I've done this on this course, about thirty women have absolutely blown by me in the first 50 yards at probably a 6:15 pace. It doesn't bother me (either I'll pass them later in the race or they're faster than me and I won't) and doesn't really interfere with my race, but part of me wonders what the point of lining up according to expected pace is if half the field is going to go out literally TWO MINUTES faster than they end up averaging. It almost makes sense for me to just start behind them.

Pro Tip: If you have thick, dark hair and haven't shaved your legs in a week, compression socks are your friend!
In the past I've tried to keep my first mile in the 7:15-7:20 range, but this time I let myself go a few seconds faster. Yes, the first couple of miles of a 10K is supposed to feel pretty easy, but given how hard I had to work on Wednesday to keep my two 10K pace miles in the 7:15 range, I was pleasantly surprised that this basically felt like a warm-up. After 2 miles at 7:08 I barely felt like I was racing. I passed a couple of women in those early miles but was still surprised at how many of the women who had shot ahead of me at the start were apparently keeping up a pretty quick pace (or at the very least had done so long enough to get multiple miles ahead of me).

Mile 3 was a little slower, partly because that was when we started to get some wind, but I still felt much better than I'd expected to at that pace. At the turnaround I knew I hadn't pushed myself anywhere near hard enough to struggle in the second half, and if I ran miles 4-6 at even the same pace as 1-3 I'd PR without a problem (though there was a stiff headwind on the way back, so I knew I'd have to work a little harder for it than in the first half).

It was in mile 4 that I finally started catching up to all the women that had gone out faster than me and started passing them. I still wasn't really pushing all that hard, but every time another woman came into range I couldn't help speeding up just a little.

Still, somewhere in miles 4.5-5ish I kind of decided, "Meh; this is about as hard as I feel like working today." A significant-but-not-crazy level of effort was getting me a sub-7:10 pace, which would already be a PR, and that was kind of all I really needed to know in terms of my fitness.

The last long stretch of the course is mostly flat and straight, so I could see pretty far ahead. I could see one woman WAAAAAY out in front of me, just a turquoise speak in the distance, which was really only academically interesting since I did not believe for a second that I had any chance of catching up to her even if I'd really gunned it. But then I found myself drifting closer and closer to her, until--holy shit!--with maybe a third of a mile to go I suddenly found myself in striking range. I didn't really want to run as hard as I knew it would take to catch her, but I lost that battle to the competitive runner brain and suddenly we were in a quarter mile neck-and-neck sprint to the finish together. I passed her ever so briefly and then she floored it and crossed the mat just a second or two ahead of me as they announced us 10K females one and two. I thought for sure she must be in my age group (they pretty much always seem to be) but it turned out that she was in the 40-44 group. So gold finger medal for me it was.

    Mile 1 - 7:08
    Mile 2 - 7:08
    Mile 3 - 7:12
    Mile 4 - 7:12
    Mile 5 - 6:58
    Mile 6 - 7:06
    .2 - 1:35 (6:27 pace)

Now, in case you didn't know, these are the circumstances under which you never, EVER get to complain about race results:

  • 1) You ran a PR
  • 2) You won your age group
  • 3) You placed overall
  • 4) You decided halfway through the race that you just weren't willing to actually work all that hard
  • 5) All of the above

But it turns out my competitive runner brain is a bit of a diva and not thirty seconds after finishing was already throwing a little hissy fit in the back of my brain. "OMG Ang, if you'd run just TWO SECONDS FASTER in those last miles we could have SPANKED that lovely woman and won the WHOLE ENCHILADA!! Why did you have to pick TODAY to run a HALF ASS FITNESS GAUGE??!?!"

To which the rational part of my brain responded, "Oh, get over yourself. For all you know she wasn't trying that hard in the last two miles either. Also, you know there's no *actual* enchilada, right?"

So yes. This race served its purpose, I did well, and though it would've been nice to have won overall (especially having come so close), I have to admit that I didn't pay for it & thus didn't deserve it. People who don't give everything they've got don't get to complain about coming in second.

In the past, Brazen participants have struck me as among the most sporting & good-spirited of runners, but WOW, were the bitches out in force post-race. And I don't mean "bitches" with affection and camaraderie (as in "mah bitches"); I mean like horrible women behaving in a rude and embarrassing manner.

I know from experience that Brazen usually posts results for the runners to look at before the volunteers giving out the age group awards get them, which usually means there's a small crowd of folks waiting (usually quite patiently) for medals at the awards table. This time there was some issue with the results (maybe the phantom Olympian above?) that caused things to take a little longer, and some people just could. Not. Deal.

One woman harangued the same volunteer for a good five minutes straight, huffing about how she had places to go and things to do and her kid could NOT wait any longer to get the medal he had RIGHTFULLY EARNED (by beating all one other runners in his age group). Another asked if she could see the medal her kid was waiting on "to see whether it's worth waiting for or not," then gave a terribly put-upon sigh and shook her head, because "Yeah...yeah, he's going to want that." A third woman straight up took the first page of results off the board where it was posted and thrust it into the volunteer's face. "Look, I've got the results right here," she said testily, shaking it at the poor woman. "How much longer do we have to wait?"

Seriously, people. Show some effing class. Just as waiting tables made me wish that doing so for a week should be a requirement for dining out, this made me feel as if volunteering at a race should be a prerequisite for running one.

Great event as always, Brazen! Love the red shirt & the crazy finger medal! I'll definitely be back next summer. :)

Friday, August 3, 2012

A Confession

A couple of years ago I started reading Gretchen Rubin's blog The Happiness Project. It might sound sort of cheesy, but the woman has some incredibly insightful things to say, and many of us would probably be better off if we could put more of her musings into action.

Back during Oakland Half/Marathon weekend, Jana gave me the actual book to borrow, and even though a lot of it was familiar from reading her blog, I really enjoyed it - she goes into more detail than on her blog, and includes lots of interesting stories and anecdotes from her daily life.

One day I was reading the chapter on her May resolution, which was to "be serious about play." In a nutshell, she worked on making time for leisure activities & cultivating "frivolous" interests. There's one section where she breaks "fun" into three types: challenging fun, accommodating fun, and relaxing fun.

"Challenging fun is the most rewarding but also the most demanding. It can create frustration, anxiety, and hard work. It often requires errands. It takes time and energy. In the end, however, it pays off with the most satisfying fun.

Usually less challenging, but still requiring a fair bit of effort, is accommodating fun. A family trip to the playground is accommodating fun. Yes, it's fun, but I'm really there because my children want to go...It strengthens relationships, it builds memories, it's fun--but it takes a lot of effort, organization, coordination with other people, and, well, accommodation.

Relaxing fun is easy. I don't have to hone skills or take action. There's very little coordination with other people or preparation involved. Watching TV--the largest consumer of the world's time after sleeping and work--is relaxing fun." (p. 134-135)

I say all that to preface a great confession.

Friends, I do not enjoy the act of running.

I don't. It's not fun. I do not find it enjoyable. Most of the time, it's a chore I pretty much have to force myself to do. Nine times out of ten, I would SOOOO prefer to sit on the couch and read or watch X-Files reruns or--gasp--get some extra work done.

And really, can you blame me? It's physically uncomfortable. You have to breathe hard. You sweat. Your various little aches & pains get going. It's hot sometimes. Or cold. Or it's raining. Or you have afternoon brain coma. This is why I find it funny when someone is like, "Oh, I wish I was a runner, but I just REALLY HATE running." Well no shit, Sherlock! I want to tell them. Of course you hate running. Most of us do. It kind of sucks.

Of course, I understand that some people really do enjoy the actual act of running. I think I'm friends with a lot of them! And I'm super jealous of those folks. I mean, yes, very occasionally I do enjoy it, if I'm feeling really good and the weather's nice, or if I haven't been able to run for a few days, for example. But most of the time, I can only dream of mustering the same enthusiasm for my runs as I do for a lazy afternoon Dr. Who.

You can probably see why, for a long time, I struggled to explain to people why I run, what it is I enjoy about the sport of running, given the fact that I find the physical act of running so deeply unpleasant. And I think Gretchen kind of nailed it. Running is "challenging fun" -- it takes energy, and planning, and sacrifice, but what I get out of it is the great pleasure of accomplishment and progress. I LOVE to race, to see concrete proof of my improvement. I love being able to say, Here's a thing I did that I worked really hard for, and even if I never do it again, I'll always have that accomplishment. In some twisted way, I kind of think that the fact that I do work so hard and endure so much unpleasantness makes the accomplishments, PRs or running a new distance or what have you, all the more satisfying.

There are other things I enjoy about the sport of running as well:

  • I like the idea of being a runner because I associate runners with lots of qualities I value: strength, toughness, stamina, health, discipline, etc. I'm very proud of being a runner and I like the idea that knowing I'm a runner makes people associate those qualities with me (at least in my mind).
  • I like what I've learned & continue to learn from running (patience, staying calm under pressure, mental toughness, appreciation for how amazing your body is in all its imperfections, etc.).
  • I like way I feel physically after a run (looser muscles, the feeling of having worked hard, lower stress levels).
  • I like the way I feel mentally after a run (refreshed, accomplished, hard-working & disciplined).
  • I like the way I feel long-term because of the fact that I run regularly (relaxed, healthy, fit, strong).
  • I even find little pockets of pleasure sometimes during a run (the smell of freshly cut grass or the air after a rainstorm, a cool breeze, nice weather, interesting people watching).

But let us not for a second confuse any of this with enjoyment of the physical act of running. Absolute best case, I don't mind it & see the temporary discomfort as a small price to pay for all the benefits above.

Which brings me to a couple of other of Rubin's points about happiness.

First, happiness doesn't always make you feel happy. Running is absolutely critical to my happiness, both short- and long-term, but that doesn't mean I'm necessarily happy while I'm doing it.

And second, in order to be happier, you have to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right. Running might not always make me feel "good" in the moment, but it does make me feel "right" in the larger scheme of things. I might not like actually doing it, but I like that I do it, and during times when I haven't been able to run, I just haven't felt "right."

So I'm sort of wondering -- is it just me? Does everyone else out there actually enjoy the physical act of running? Or do you just put up with it because the other types of happiness / good feelings you get out of the sport of running or the fact that you run?